Brand story

Stuff shmuff - stories are how we make sense of the world.

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The effect of our environment has on us and the way we develop, the way we live, our habits and beliefs, is astounding, isn’t it?

I still think of human brains like massive sponges soaking up everything around them and then incorporating the other stuff we’ve already soaked up. For me personally, I find this thought both comforting and exciting because for most of us, we have a lot of control over what we hang around, both physically and mentally, and therefore, what we soak up.

You know that maxim that we are the average of the 5 people we hang around the most, or spend the most time with, however it goes … That’s pretty interesting, but what’s most interesting about it is how you can control who you’re hanging around and what you’re feeding that brain sponge of yours.

For me, I access ‘hanging out’ with all sorts of brilliant and amazing people through the books I read. This totally counts and while I can’t physically be with them, it’s probably more powerful anyway to be hanging out with their focused and organised thoughts that are books.

And there’s something really interesting that I’ve noticed about this - while you can learn from the step-by-step guides and lists and reference-type articles, the ones that show you exactly how to do something and are of great value because of this, the greatest value comes from tapping into someone else’s experience. It’s the story, that kind of connection that seems to reach our brains in a different way - an emotional way.

That connection, that emotion is what really inspired and motivates us to make use of the practical knowledge and resources all around us. I really do believe that you can learn anything and that, especially now with the sea of information available to us, is not that hard. Pretty easy in fact.

I had a friend whose car battery went flat and wouldn’t start. The only other person around was another friend who did have jumper leads, but neither of them knew how to use them. What did they do? Call one of their husbands or the RAC? No, they YouTubed it of course and were back on the road in less than 5 minutes.

That’s a really simple example and I’m sure that heaps of people would have done the same thing. I’m pretty sure they didn’t tap into some deep archetypal story in order to think of YouTubing how to jump start a car. But with so much information available to us about EVERYTHING, how are we drawn to and know what to listen to, to seek, to choose?

It’s through the stories that we identify with, the stories we internalise from our environment and the stories we aspire to make our own. And that’s why being aware of the environment you’re creating for yourself reveals the path you’ll take, the opportunities you’ll attract and the outcomes you’ll manifest.

Stories allow us to see ourselves in a different light, to see the possibilities and options that in the end lead us to choose the information, the people, the art, the places, the brands and everything else we’ll seek and incorporate into our lives.

Think about this in terms of content, both that which you create and that which you consume. Content that’s just information alone might be useful, but it’s kind of like a commodity. Will we come back? Maybe. Will we feel a connection with it and start feeling trusting and eventually loyal towards it? Well maybe, but if there’s something else that gives us that emotional connection as well as solving the problem, we’ll probably go for that … and go back again, primed and ready to take notice and incorporate what it says.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ is full of statistics, but it’s the stories that inspire and bring those stats to life. Jen Sincero’s book ‘You Are a Badass’ has a great list of other books and resources at the back, but it’s all the stories in all the preceding pages that make a reader almost certainly pursue at least one of them.

Stuff is just stuff, information is just information. Humans are emotional creatures and we all make sense of the world and stuff and information through stories. When content lacks the emotional element, the story bit, it just becomes a commodity and blends in, gets lost and doesn’t stick like it could.

Find the stories that matter to you and follow the people who tell them, see where they take you. If Tony Robbins is your story guy, but you’re a tax accountant, follow the trail of his stories - they’ll inform and influence your own in a way that’s unique and a way that will stand out.

If you’re a patchwork quilter, but you love Steve Jobs and Metalica, more’s the better. Follow them, read their stories, open your mind to how you fit into all three because when you do, then your own stories develop and shine in a way that only yours can. You’ll start to have an impact on people’s lives because you’re allowing them to connect with you in a way that tax accounting or patchwork quilting alone can’t.


This isn’t a content marketing or social media tactic, it’s just being human. Tools are just tools - it takes a human connection to get them to take us where we want to go.

Content marketing isn't rocket science and you don't have to be a multi-million dollar brand to express your message and build your tribe. Everyone has a story and they're all unique and they're all important. Pepper Street's mission is to help small businesses tell theirs in a way that's manageable, is true and feels good, so if you liked this article, you can receive the weekly blog via email by adding your details below. And if you'd like to check out our Ultimate Content Framework, you can download that here
 

Express your truth

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Surely you’re over being told that. I am and can’t really believe I’m about to write about it, but I’ll tell you why I’m going to to do just that … it’s because the easiest and hands-down most effective way to create content, and content that actually engages people, is to find your truth, and then practice expressing it.

I know, I see you with the eye-rolling after reading that first paragraph, and no doubt I’ve lost some of you by now, but I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t think it was true and worth thinking about.

On one hand, it sounds so easy and basic, there’s a tendency to ignore it. Like, yeah, yeah, got it. Yep, heard that, already know it, read it before, 10,000 times in fact, and have definitely earned the right to now ignore it. 

Yes, that was me too. It makes so much sense, it’s easy to trivialise and disregard. I do it too, and yet, as a content creator for my own brand and others, it’s something I’m starting to realise is more of a fundamental content creation skill (and being a proper human being online skill) than just a throw-away, woo-woo, content fodder line.

Because actually doing it can be surprisingly tricky. I mean for a start, you have to know what your “truth” is, right? And even if you know that, why does it matter to anyone else anyway? Besides, on top of everything else, it then takes courage and guts to express that stuff, doesn’t it?

But here’s the thing; it’s not actually all that hard, but it does take practice and it does make content a lot easier to produce and a lot more engaging. In fact, in that way, it’s a lot like the effects of meditation on life.

On the surface meditating, that is, in essence, not thinking, or letting thoughts go without getting ‘involved’, is both extremely simple, and yet something that takes a lot of practice to master. It’s worth it though because even if you’re not that great at it (who’s judging anyway except for you?!), the practice itself is good for you. Just practicing it makes you feel better.

It’s the same thing with your truth and the content that expresses that - it takes practice, but the practice itself is good for you. It’s not an end-game thing, it’s the journey. And when you practice expressing your truth, you’ll get better and better and expressing it, whatever the subject at hand is.

The truth is that we’re communicating and connecting more often and with a far more diverse variety of people than ever before because of the channels and conduits available to us. Therefore we’re all having to evolve so that we can work out what’s relevant to us and what’s not. With so much choice and so much information, so much content, the way we’re getting really good at coping with it all is by finding what really lights us up, resonates and connects deeply. We look for something personal, we want real people, real connection.

Information is gigantuous, overwhelming - it’s too much and at the same time, not enough. We need to step back into our human instincts to make sense of it all, to filter what we’ll take in and what we’ll ignore. And our instincts are emotional. We sum people up on gut feelings, in the blink of an eye, and we do the same with content and information.

Your truth, who you really are, and what’s actually important to you is the way you connect with people. It’s in the subtle things you say and nuances in how you say them. It’s the stuff that lights you up. It’s the things that don’t change no matter who you’re talking to, what business you’re in or why you’re creating content. It’s also in the things that make you stand out, the things that are truly unique, and the things that can never be copied.

Yes, it does take some practice, no, actually, it’s an ongoing practice, like meditation, but one that benefits you unquestionably and one that allows other to connect with your meaningfully, which is, after all, the point of creating content in the first place.

Ok, I hear you say, that all sounds well and good, but how does one actually practice expressing said truth in one’s said content?
 
Here’s an idea - try this;

For the next 2 weeks, create one piece of content every day that’s purely based on expressing your truth, in whatever form that may take.
You don’t have to publish it, or do anything with it at all, just do it.
Make it, say it, write it, record it, paint it, design it - whatever it is, just do it as if no one else will ever see it. Complete freedom, complete privacy.
Just you, what you care about and how you feel like expressing it.

Do this once a day for 2 weeks and see what comes up. Write it in a journal, in Evernote, record your voice, or a video, create draft posts in Facebook or your blog - whatever, just allow yourself to create without constraint. See how it feels, see what comes up - be open and brave and remember that no one’s watching so go for it.

This should be a very revealing and inspiring exercise. You may end up with a heap of content that’s perfect as it is and ready to use. You may end up with recurring themes and ideas that you hadn’t noticed before. You may find that it was the easiest and the best content you’ve ever produced and be wondering why you haven’t done this before. You may even have revealed a slightly new path, opportunity or passion that’s been dying to be given wings.

Go on, try it - what have you got to lose?
Nothing, but you just might come across some well-deserved and really valuable insight.

So if you’re keen to do this and want daily prompts within a community of people doing the same, join the Not Rocket Science Facebook group. No one’s going to make you post your stuff, but it can be really inspiring seeing what comes up for other people on a similar journey.

Also, if you think you might need a bit of a kick-starter for thinking about your truth and your mission, you can download the ‘What’s your mission anyway?’ workbook here.

You can also download my flagship content framework right here. It's a simple visual PDF that shows how to start with your mission, create flagship pieces, align your other and link it all together to create that journey and experience for your audience. ... and it's kinda pretty so you can stick it up where you can see it when you're creating to keep you on track :)

For more about what to write or say, the Stuck For Words blog post gives some suggestions for getting unstuck, and Say What You Want to Say is more riffing along the same tune.


Thanks to Neven Krcmarek for the photo via Unsplash.

What's your story and why does it matter?

When I was little, I was always writing. I kept journals from just about the time I could write and I’d have folders of stories and poetry that I’d carry around and ‘organise’ constantly. At school I used to create these little ‘clubs’ where I’d organise a group of girls together, make up some mission or another that we were on, assign various roles, craft ‘club rules’, membership cards and distribute newsletters.

When I was 10 I made a magazine - it was creatively called ‘Angie’s News’ (I have never been called Angie, but anyway). Computers hadn’t been invented yet - kidding, they had, but we didn’t have one at home in the mid-80’s, so this magazine was all hand-written and drawn. I just loved doing this stuff and although I can’t really remember what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was already doing what i would always do.

Apart from the fact that writing, creating and organising have been glaring constants in my life from a really young age, now, as a woman with kids of my own, I also recognise some of the more subtle drivers that I realise have also always been there.

There’s this fascination with what makes us different and how those differences click together and allow us to connect. To me, it’s a little bit like a dance-off or something where one person shows their awesome and unique moves, then the other shows theirs, and then they dance together in a way that’s different again to each of them on their own.

That magazine was all about these very different stories brought together to create this collective, colourful and creative experience. I guess that’s exactly what a magazine and other collaborative efforts are - work groups, sporting teams, families, creative collaborations. All bringing people together and organising differences in a way that’s interesting, creative and different to any of its contributing parts on their own.

Marketing is like that, at least that’s the way I see it. It’s so much about expressing what makes people unique, and yet similar, and organising that story in interesting and creative ways. Ways that are different and yet familiar. We’re attracted to stories like that because of their difference, recognising that which is unique, but somehow we can also see ourselves in the difference. And that’s when connection happens. And that’s what marketing is really all about because that’s what people are all about.

I don’t think my story is particularly spectacular and it’s probably only interesting to me, but that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be anything, it just is. We all have a story and sometimes it’s so normal, so ordinary, and we’ve been doing it for so long, that we’re not even conscious of it. In fact sometimes we don’t even know what that story is.

When I work with clients on developing their brand, I take them through all this deep questioning and brainstorming to uncover these stories. Some love it and totally immerse themselves, while others come kicking and screaming, questioning the relevance, the difficulty, the discomfort in looking at these things - it can be pretty funny. But the reason story’s important is because it shines a light, a great big megawatt floodlight on where our greatness and genius lies. Greatness and genius meaning our innate talents and gifts that come so naturally to us, we hardly even know they exist. And the reason we find them in our stories over and over again, is because we can’t even help doing them - we just do, in all kinds of ways.

These are the things that only we can do in our own particular style and way. The things that at once, fire us up and get us sparking with energy, yet also give us such a deep sense of surety and deep knowing, we switch almost to autopilot where everything is easy and our intuition is sharp.

Once we recognise them, we realise these are the things that have always been there and the things that can become our superpowers when we cultivate them and use them intentionally. Except that can be harder than it sounds, at least when we’re trying to figure this out for ourselves. For some reason, it’s much easier to do for other people.

That’s where the connection piece comes into it and why when you can cultivate the courage to inject yourself into your brand, things often become a whole lot easier. When you can do that, you’re in alignment with who you really are and at the end of the day, that’s the difference, that’s the uniqueness, the realness, that people are hardwired to find familiarity and recognition in. It’s how we connect.

Only you can do you and in a world that’s overloaded like never before with people, brands, information, options, data, products and services, that’s a very powerful thing to have. If you can just let go of your ‘reasoning’ that YOU have to be this or that, or that your brand does, and find the courage to express yourself through your brand and your business, you’ll begin to grow something that people really can find connection in.

Now I know that even if you’re thinking this all sounds good and true, it’s still hard to make bridge between knowing this and putting it into useful action in your business. But do yourself 2 favours here ok?

  1. Download the ‘What’s your mission anyway?’ workbook that I’ve included here and give it a go. It’s not a miracle weaver that’ll solve all your problems, but it will get you thinking about how what matters to you matters to your business.

  2. Once you’ve done that, just put one little thing into action. This is not about radical re-branding, although you could be up for that, it’s about giving yourself permission to be who you are.

See a designer for a more colourful logo and website, add more of the way you really speak into your emails, write the blog post you’re dying to write, but are too scared to. Post a selfie on your Facebook page, be the haute couture stylist who’s a hippy at heart, the lawyer who has purple hair, the spiritual guidance counselor who has a potty mouth and calls a spade a spade. We make it hard because we make it hard, but it’s time to dip our toes in at least, even if we’re not ready to fully dive in just yet.

Download the workbook and if you still can’t make the bridge to how it matters in your business, book a call and let’s chat - there’s a scheduler in the workbook and also on my ‘Work with me’ page.

Have a great week,

Andrea

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Say what you want to say

When I graduated with my uni degree, it was a pretty big deal. I’d studied externally as a stay at home mum, after having 3 kids in 3 years, and although there were many times when I felt like giving up, I was determined to finish it. And so I did.

The graduation ceremony was unusually extravagant, at least by Australian standards. There was a light show, an art exhibition, white marques with champagne & sushi, the trees were filled with fairy lights and paper lanterns, and there was a fireworks display choreographed to ‘Brave’ by Sarah Bareilles.

The lyrics of that song are about being brave enough to say what you want to say, speaking your truth and letting the words come out. Needless to say it felt very emotional there at that graduation ceremony with those fireworks on that warm February night, and naturally that song became a bit of a personal anthem for me.

You see, I’ve been organising communication my whole life. When I was in primary school I was always creating ‘clubs’ for my friends - writing out lists of rules, mission statements, individual role descriptions and club charters. I always kept journals and had several folders for my collections of plays, stories and poems that I carried around everywhere. They were pretty basic when I was 8, but I loved to write and I loved to organise what I wrote. Then as an adult, it’s no surprise at all that I ended up working in advertising, marketing and PR. I always had things to say and I wanted that degree to legitimise my love of communication.

Just as that song came to represent a lot to me personally, it also says a lot about every one of us and the need to find the words and the ways to tell our stories. For personal, as well as company brands, the story is the thing that makes a person real and brand come alive. It’s the thing that underpins the way you show up - what you say, how you say it and why. It comes through in everything, it’s the uniqueness that makes you stand out and it’s the thing people find connection in.

When it comes to marketing, you really have to know what you want to say and learn to say it in your unique style, intentionally. Whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not, you’re telling a story all the time anyway, in everything you do, so you might as well take some time to figure out what it is you want to say. When you’re clear about what you want to say, you can tell that story with intention and creativity, which makes your brand more interesting, more appealing and more connection-able.

But, like the song says, you kind of have to be a bit brave to do that. We’re all pretty well-trained in modifying what we really want to say into something a wee bit different, a wee bit more ‘acceptable’. And that’s not always a bad thing, right? There could be all kinds of problems if we didn’t learn to be appropriate, at least most of the time.

With branding though, that truth, that authenticity makes a real difference. It’s all about saying what you want to say - your story - and finding the right way to say it - wrapping it up in your mission and your style. When you nail that, everything becomes so, so much easier because it comes out in everything you do - what you say, what you write, what you create, what you offer, how you sell.

I’ve always found storytelling and branding fascinating and powerful, right up my alley really with the writing & communication, but to be honest, very hard to show others how to do. Until now. I guess I’ve worked with it enough and honed my skills enough to not only be able to do it, but I’ve also figured out a way of teaching and empowering others with that knowledge too. So much so, that it’s become part of my brand story. So now I’m saying what I want to say and showing you how to do that too.

 

If you’re interested in working with me so you can say what you want to say in just the right way, fill in the form below with your details and I’ll be in touch. We can work one-on-one for a month to establish your brand story, including your brand Mission Guide, your on-brand content, your images, including your brand Style Guide and bring that all together in the way you sell your stuff. Yep, all in a month. How good would that feel? Fill in the form and I’ll be in touch to make a time to chat - that’s where all the goodness begins.

Thank you as always for reading. Leave a comment, or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram - I’d love to hear from you.

Andrea

Because looking good makes your feel good

... and 16 other reasons a strong brand is so important on social media.

Now I’m assuming that you already know how important it is to build a strong brand on social media, right? Even if you couldn’t list all the reasons straight off the top of your head, I’m guessing you know enough to know it’s important. So then why would I write this blog post? Because we forget, and because we think we understand more than we actually do sometimes, and because branding on social media is really, really important and it needs to be said more than once.

A strong brand is a strong identity. A strong, recognisable personality, voice, image and mission. You recognise it when you see it, you know what it’s about and you know whether you like it or not. Furthermore, depending on how you feel about it, you pay attention, engage, interact and follow … or not. And choosing ‘not’ to is better than not being seen at all, which addresses the first reason a strong brand is so important on social;

  1. To stand out - sheer volume of users & a general overload of information mean we’ve all got really good at skimming. Brands that don’t stand out make it easy for us ignore them because we’re looking to block out what’s not relevant.
  2. Consistency - it’s hard to stand out if you’re not consistent, again, because of the sheer volume. You’ve got to be consistent in your look, your message as well as when and where you show up.
  3. Tell a story - part of the function of a strong brand is to tell your story so people know who you are, what you do and who you do it for, without having to spell it out every time. No one has time for that!
  4. Great brands are magnetic - have you noticed? Who in business doesn’t want a great big magnet working for them on social media?
  5. Your mission and purpose are clear - people aren’t generally attracted to fluff and ambiguity, so again, a strong brand makes it easy for people to work out if you’re for them … or not.
  6. Familiarity - people need to be familiar with you to be able to develop trust and loyalty. Simple but true.
  7. Professional appeal - a great brand contributes enormously to you being perceived as professional, credible and trustworthy.
  8. Meaningful connections - a strong brand means the connections you make on social are more likely to engage, support and invest in you, rather than just follow for the sake of it and contribute to your vanity metrics.
  9. Share-ability - great branding makes your content more shareable, for all of the reasons already mentioned and because people who share want to be associated with that goodness.
  10. Room to move - a strong brand gives you the room and the opportunity to grow and expand, but also to experiment and make mistakes.
  11. Form alliances, network and be noticed by thought leaders and professional peers in your field more easily and more meaningfully with a strong brand.
  12. Build your reputation more easily.
  13. Increase your sales.
  14. Boost traffic to your site and increase search results.
  15. Appeal to your competitor’s customers without having to stalk them - let them find and come to you.
  16. Cut your paid ads and marketing costs as your organic reach increases and your paid advertising is more effective.
  17. And because, let’s face it, you want to look good online, for all of these reasons as well as the fact that it’s a pride thing. Who wants to look half-baked, unprofessional, and dare I say it, dodgy? It feels good to look good and have your brand in alignment with who you are.

Enough said.

Social branding is something I dedicate whole months to help clients with in my one-on-one coaching programme and it’s also the main focus in the group coaching programme. It really helps to have someone outside of your business to take a look, help you get clear on your brand messaging and how that translates onto social media and into sales. If you’re interested in working with me either for group or one-on-one coaching, fill in your details here, and I’ll email you.

As always, thanks for reading. Comment below, or ask a question - I’d love to hear from you, or if you’d prefer, email me at andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com

Have a great day,

Andrea

The way you sell is the ultimate expression of your brand story

If I added up all the hours I’ve spent on creating social media content for Pepper Street Social, it’d equate to a fairly significant portion of my life, in all honesty. Is it necessary? Yes. Have I enjoyed it? Absolutely. Has it made a difference? You bet. But I’ve also had to learn some hard truths about social media and using it as an effective business marketing tool.

The truth is that I have spent whole days, strings of days in fact, creating content that’s thoughtful, on-brand and engaging. I’ve researched topics, written long, value-packed blogs, created killer images to match, posted good copy, laboured over graphics to get them just right, and at the end of the day, felt good that I’d done my job.

Now here’s where it might get a little confusing because I am a social media manager, so that IS my job, right? Wrong, actually.

For me, just like for you, social media is a tool I use to market my own business and clients’ businesses. It’s part of what I do, but it’s still not the purpose of my job. My job is to help clients build brand awareness, connect with their target market and make more sales … and social media is the primary tool I use to do that. Your job is selling what you sell - your coaching or consulting services, or the products you make - jewelry, cakes, accessories, coffee etc. Our jobs are to make stuff and sell it, and so, if our efforts on social media don’t contribute to that, then it’s not part of our job, it’s just a social media hobby.

Take these Facebook stats for example:

Pretty good, hey. Impressive? Maybe. But they’re not sales … and unless they contribute to sales, it’s tricky to figure out how relevant they really are.

Now I’m not talking about some formula where you divide your reach by engagement and then multiply it by the square root of your sales … I made that up, so don’t try it at home, ok? I’m just making a point. When you approach your social media with your focus on sales clear in your mind, the stats start to mean something.

These stats for example, are from the Pepper Street Social Facebook page and coincide with my posts this week about the group coaching programme. So now these numbers aren’t just nice because they’re heading up, they’re telling me something about people’s reaction to something I sell, something that’s directly connected to revenue.

There are two main reasons I’m saying this;

One: because most people don’t like to sell and push back on selling on social media. But there’s selling and then there’s selling.

When I say ‘sell’ & focus on ‘selling’, are you feeling all icky, imagining big red BUY NOW buttons, spammy Instagram accounts, and obnoxious web pop-ups? Thought so. But selling is about awareness, value and service and the process is a relationship building journey based on trust. Sound better? You bet.

When you think about it like that, selling is actually a pretty beautiful thing. It’s about allowing people to become aware of you, understand what you do, like what you do and trust you enough to buy from you. What you sell has value so you’re providing a service in letting people know about it and telling them how they can buy it, all the while, understanding that this takes time.

And two: because when you focus on what you sell, which is your job after all (as opposed to your social media hobby), your content is better and your business benefits.

Focused content is easier to produce and it serves a defined purpose for both your business and your customers. That means you can achieve real outcomes and actually sell something, which is your job.

So don’t just faff around on social media - that’s not your job. Selling your stuff is, so be clear about why you’re posting and use social media to sell it. That doesn’t mean shouting ‘BUY NOW’ in every post, but it does mean staying focused enough to let people know what they need to know and feel what they need to feel to like and trust you enough to eventually buy something from you. Find your own way of doing this and tell your own story. Selling is not separate to marketing - it’s an important part of it, so the way you sell, is all part of your brand and your relationship with your customers.

Selling without selling, which is still selling, but just in a way that both you and your customers feel good about, is something that stumps the best of us until we practice it enough to feel comfortable with it. A big part of it is branding though. When you’re clear about your brand story and the mission you’re on to provide value, it becomes a lot easier to sell in a way that feels authentic and nurtures relationships.

 

This is something I dedicate whole months to help clients with in my one-on-one coaching programme and it’s also a big focus in the group coaching programme. It really helps to have someone outside of your business to take a look and help you get clear on your brand messaging and how that translates into sales. If you’re interested in working with me either for group of one-on-one coaching, fill in your details here, and I’ll email you.

As always, thanks for reading. Comment below, or ask a question - I’d love to hear from you, or if you’d prefer, email me at  andrea@pepperstreetsocial.com 

Have a great day,

Andrea

Book review: 'Difference' by Bernadette Jiwa

Difference, Bernadette Jiwa.jpg

I’m excited about the times we're living in. I know that in many ways there's a lot to be scared of, but it seems to me that there's also a hell of a lot to be excited about, and to find hope and brilliance in. Much of that excitement, that brilliance, I believe stems from a collective step change in the human psyche. It's about truth, it's about living authentically, it's about real stuff that matters and it's about the human need to connect and belong.

 

So what does this have to do with a book about marketing? Everything. 

 

We're living in a special point in time where many of us enjoy lives where our basic needs are more than satisfied. Our collective human intelligence has advanced further up the hierarchy of needs pyramid at precisely the time that technology has advanced to the point of true integration into everyday life. This means that people are questioning more and demanding the satisfaction of deeper desires, such as meaning and purpose and integrity, in their lives. It also means that because of the accessibility of technology, never before has there been such an opportunity to realise these desires.

 

We want more meaning and purpose. We also have the ability to connect, collaborate, integrate and disseminate information like never before in order to inform our choices. And because the barriers to enter the marketplace have been greatly reduced by technologolical advancements, we also have more options available and a greater ability to make choices that reflect the things that matter to us.

 

It means that mass marketing is dying, if not, dead. We're not prepared to be treated like invisible numbers and demographic conglomerates anymore and it seems that we don't have to be. Doing work that matters, making choices that reflect our values, giving our loyalty to ethical and caring companies that make a difference is where we're headed, and 'Difference' encapsulates that thinking. Although it's a marketing method, the overarching message of this book is much broader and can be applied not only to all facets of a savvy business, but as a mediation and encouragement for us all to embrace the abundant opportunities to make choices that matter.

 

The concept of making yourself matter to your customers, of reinventing your business and staying sharply focused on what makes you different to your competition is not a new concept, but it’s the way ‘Difference’ tells the story that makes the difference. Firstly, Bernadette Jiwa is a great storyteller, so she’s a pleasure to read. She has a style that combines that inspirational values-approach to business combined with enough clarity and punch to avoid the waffle. In ‘Difference’, she manages to marry what matters on a human level to what works on a business level. Secondly, she doesn’t just stick with the theory and avoid the issue of how to actually put it into practice. Her engaging and succinct writing style is further enlivened by the very practical and applicable Difference Model and Difference Map.

 

The Difference Model is centred on empathy as the foundation for making things and developing ideas that actually matter to people. By understanding how people feel and what they care about, and therefore what they want, we can realise a great opportunity to build better, more sustainable businesses and ideas, and communicate in ways that people actually want to hear. The Difference Model provides a framework to begin this journey and the Difference Map is a visual shorthand way of brainstorming and representing your findings.

 

‘Difference’ also presents several inspiring case studies in the form of Difference Map samples. It’s here that this philosophy is really illustrated, this important step change not only in our ability, but our responsibility for creating work that matters. These are companies that know it's about showing up, about making the most of the choices available to us, about choosing the stories we want to tell and be a part of. It's about connecting authentically with the people who matter to us and our business. They are companies millions of people have shown their desire to support, emulate and connect with, to be a part of their story.

 

This is an inspiring and important little book that speaks to so much more than turning dated marketing approaches on their head, although it does that too. It asks us to be brave enough to consider the truth about what we really care about and what really matters. Bernadette Jiwa tells us the story of Difference and illustrates the tale with the stories of companies who are choosing to matter. But she also shows us a practical way of doing that, of identifying and expressing those differences in a way that will resonate with our clients and customers. This is a story I want to be a part of and one that I suspect we all do.

 

To find out more about 'Difference' and Bernadette Jiwa, you can find her at http://thestoryoftelling.com

 

 

How your brand story helps define your audience

Maya Angelou said that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Sometimes we don’t even know what those stories are until we start telling them, but a pretty cool kind of magic happens when we start engaging our imagination in story.

 

My friend called me out of the blue the other day. “I’ve got this idea for my business”, she said, “What do you think?” … And what ensued was about an hour-long call during which we crafted a story. A story that came from an idea, was questioned, teased out, explained and injected with the wide-eyed wonder of “What if …”

 

“What if …”, comes from the space of creative imagining. It’s a juicy alternative to the "What IS…” question, which is often what we ask, and which often gets us stuck, when we’re trying to think of business ideas and solutions. We get the idea, the creativity happens, we get all inspired imagining the possibilities … and then we stop imagining, become robotic and serious (AKA clever and astute business people), and start trying to nail down the characteristics of the ‘target’.

 

And sure, I know it has to be done and I completely understand the value in doing it. Knowing your audience is critical so it’s worth getting right. You absolutely need to, no question. But I also see how dry and ineffective addressing questions about the problem you’re solving, the profile of a person with this problem and why they’d choose you to solve it can get. Ironically, the ‘personality’ you’re trying to paint and bring to life through this questioning is at grave risk of becoming, well, rather lifeless and one-dimensional.

 

When you’re imagining and wondering “what if …”, you're naturally thinking in terms of story, a good story. Unconstrained by what’s plausible and measurable and even realistic, your values and desires start to show up all by themselves and if this is a story you’re creating with another person, then all sorts of good starts bouncing around between you. What’s happening is that you’re engaging imagination with inner values, and that stirs up emotion. Once you’ve got the emotion happening, you’re starting to tell a pretty compelling story. It’s believable because it’s got a bit of heart in it and humans connect with their hearts, not business analysis.

 

And keep talking! Now that you’re in there, telling that story, seeing the vision, try asking one of those targeting questions. Now try asking what problem your product or service is trying to solve. How does your answer sound now? Long? Detailed? Passionate? And what about describing the person who experiences this problem? What are they like? Who are they? What does the problem look like and how does your brand show up for them? When you’re in the story, these questions take on a whole new dimension. Your answers are juicy and ripe and full of the thing that’s going to allow you to stand out - heart.

 

Knowing your brand ideals and enveloping them in a brand story emblazoned with detail starts with imagining that story. Wondering “What IF …”, rather than asking “What IS …” can unlock the heart in an idea and craft a story that really comes alive. A story that makes it easy to pin-point your target audience because you’ve allowed them to become real in that story. And when the story’s real with real characters and real heart, that’s when you’ve got the seed of potential for real connection and serving your audience with outstanding usefulness and personality. 

Photo credit: Image by johnhain via pixabay

Brand story - not just for your customers, but a road map to success through consistency

Developing your brand ideals and crafting those into a solid brand story isn’t just something the marketing department does to connect with customers. It’s an underlying fundamental encapsulation of guiding principles that inform every decision you make, every direction you choose and every message you craft. Before it’s an outward story, it’s an internal one.

 

The most successful brands are genuinely loved by their loyal followers and are instantly recognised by those who’ve not yet engaged with the brand. These brands represent things to us that are not specifically articulated, but we come to associate certain thoughts, feelings, associations and expectations every time we experience them. This happens over time because the messages and the way we experience these brands, every time we come in contact with them, is consistent. A brand can’t claim that valuable real estate in the minds of their customers and audience without consistent messaging and although that’s a lot harder than it sounds, your brand ideals and a strong brand story is your knight in shining armour.

 

Imagine having a set of ideals, beautifully articulated and represented in ways that are accessible to everyone in the organisation on an every day basis. Imagine having the kind of culture where things could be that simple and that inspiring, because feeling part of something, understanding what our mission is and feeling confident in making decisions IS inspiring. In many ways it’s starting from the inside with how you want your brand to show up on the outside, and when you can harness those ideals and that story, there are many, many benefits beyond just ‘marketing’ a great brand story.

 

Here are just a few of the practical benefits that can flow from nailing your brand ideals and making them real in your business;

 

  • Certainly referring to your brand ideals and your story, but going beyond that into internalising them, guides you in making the best decisions for your business when there are so many competing options with differing benefits. Your ideals and story are unique so measuring your options in terms of how well they align goes a long way in embedding that culture and feeding that story.

 

  • Living your brand ideals and story keeps your message consistent. Whether they’re encapsulated in a few poignant words emblazoned on the wall, or a recurring whisper in your subconscious, contributing consistently to that story is critical in developing a strong brand.

 

  • Embedding those ideals into your brand culture gives your employees an ideal to believe in and something tangible to be guided by. Everyone who represents that brand contributes to its story so be clear about what that story is and therefore how their contribution fits.

 

  • Brand ideals and story together form a lighthouse that allows for excellent planning and scheduling - knowing the principles that underlie the story and the direction you want it to take means you can much more confidently map out a meaningful and reliable path for getting there.

 

  • Being part of a story inspires greater creativity - clear direction coupled with strong ideals, can be just the right amount of constraint to get those creative minds to flourish. Even the most creative of creatives need some kind of direction and reason to hone their talents and make their work more meaningful.

 

  • A strong brand story that encapsulates your ideals enables you to more easily, accurately and confidently identify peers and affiliates with whom to form alliances and synergies based on shared values and complimentary core beliefs. Not all competition is created equally, and strong, intelligent and meaningful alliances can help your brand achieve more than it could on its own. Imagine merging tribes with similar ideals and aligned stories.

 

  • It’s not just your employees that contribute to your brand story - your customers do too and in fact are probably the most pivotal contributors. Continuing the evolution of that story through the input and contributions of your customers is the thing that gives them something real to connect and grow with. It’s not just about a brand and a brand story, it’s a story about them, something they’re part of and something they believe in.

 

  • Leadership is underpinned by strong ideals. Your ideals crafted into a bespoke brand story is the secret sauce that enables you to be less reactive to your competition and gives you a framework for market leadership. Reacting to and following the pack might ensure your survival, but true potential is realised only when your brand is able to map its own path.

 

Brand story is more than just a marketing tool and your ideals are more than just a box to be checked during strategic planning sessions. Together they form the foundation for greatness, for leadership, belonging, for doing things that matter. They can and definitely should go beyond the  conceptual and be harnessed as the most practical and valuable tool your business can invest in.

Don’t just ‘refer’ to your ideals and your brand story - make it your culture. Let those ideals be so ingrained, so integral, so normal in everyone who represents that brand, that they come through in everything everybody does. Incorporate and infuse those ideals into every aspect of your brand and let that story come alive, evolve and grow as a living, breathing organism. Then, and only then, will you have on your hands, a brand that will be impossible to ignore. 

Your brand story is not for everyone

Within every brand story are its core benefits, beliefs and values. The story begins with these, they’re its foundation, at the heart of the matter and they represent the core of why a brand exists. The reason developing that story is critical in developing a brand that people want to engage with and which they will come to love is all about the things that make us human. Truly loved brands are those that go beyond doing and making stuff to doing stuff that matters to people and making them feel good about having that brand in their lives.

 

When you first start thinking about your brand’s values, beliefs and ideals, it can be daunting and confusing. It’s not something that’s going to bring any benefit if done superficially, you have to go deep. Going deep and getting real about why it is you do your thing and why it’s important people know about your thing and the message you’re bringing to the world is sometimes confronting for people. It feels hard to think about something that deeply, but stick with it. Take the time and the effort and keep at it until you start some momentum because once you get some flow, once you start hitting on the things that really matter to you, it gets much easier and you know you’re getting there.

 

The reason it starts to feel much easier is because you’re starting to touch on core values and ideals that resonate and reflect your own values and ideals. Your business doesn’t have to have the same core values as you do personally, but they will and should resonate with and reflect your own. When you start to feel that, you’re onto something you genuinely care about and the reason this is important to distill is because these are the things that other people will resonate with and care about. It’s that human connection and reflection of values that’s at the heart of every really outstanding and truly loved brand.

 

The reason you have to take the time and energy into drawing out your brand ideals is of course because it’s the thing that people connect and identify with, but that won’t be possible unless you’re able to communicate those values and ideals in a way that people understand and resonate with. It’s no good to create a heart-drenched mission with your values and ideals meticulously set out if no one knows about it. That’s why you have to turn that mission into a story and that story becomes your map, your guide, your beacon and your message in every single thing you do. Your brand story is what wraps up your brand values and ideals and gives them to your customers and clients in a way that connects with and reflects their values and ideals.

 

Your brand story, therefore, is not for everyone. Not everyone will understand, connect with and resonate with that story and that’s ok because it’s not about pleasing the masses. What it is about is being crystal clear, stoically true and utterly committed to the ideals that underpin the very existence of your brand, your business. That’s the human thing about business and the only thing that makes business real; human relationships. Being authentic and solid in who you are doesn’t attract or please everyone; not everyone will like it and in fact, many won’t like it at all. But what it can do is initiate the potential for deep connection, engagement, loyalty and trust based on shared values. 

Photo credit: Image by tsg1 via pixabay

Brand ideals: no longer a touchy-feely "option"

I was talking to a good friend of mine today, about all sorts of things, it’d been a while, but our conversation eventually came around to social media. She LOVES social media and even admitted to what sounds like a slight addiction and ‘sneakily checking her phone behind the cereal box’ … you know who you are my friend, but I don’t stand in judgement and neither will I tell a soul, promise. The truth is actually she’s definitely not alone and I’m sure many could, and would, relate if they were as candid and honest as my friend.

 

The really interesting thing to me about the magnetism of social media were her reasons. She said she was drawn to the multitudes of interesting people doing good and interesting things in the world. People who stand for things that matter, people who are starting movements, people who are making a difference in their own and other people’s lives in many different ways. She described how inspired she felt to see the stories of these people in her news feeds and how she felt that social media gave her a way of surrounding herself with people who inspired and lifted her with the missions they’re on and the stories they tell. How it’s given ordinary people a vehicle for their voice, their message, and in doing so have allowed others to connect, identify and resonate with, and in, their own voices.

 

Of course there’s a lot of opportunity to see just as much negativity no doubt, but our current ability to choose who to read, who to follow and what, and who, you wish to be influenced by is unprecedented. And that’s a really important point - with the opening of communication channels, greater accessibility and connectivity, I believe people are, collectively, becoming a lot more aware of the many different voices, opinions and view points that the world is made up of. Awareness is core to identifying our own ideals and we’re naturally drawn to people and organisations that reflect those ideals back to us. When my friend feels inspired by the people she wants to surround herself with, via social media, or in person, or any in other way, she’s feeling like that because she resonates with the ideals they’re espousing and she therefore feels connected to them. She feels connected to them because they’re acting as a conduit, in a way, and a mirror for her own ideals.

 

Once upon a time, but not all that long ago, marketing students were taught the 4 P’s of marketing - I was, and actually I wouldn’t mind betting that even if you’ve never studied marketing formally, you’ve probably come across the 4 P’s in one form or another. Price, product, placement and promotion. So if I were to turn this story into one about marketing and branding, as I always do, then where exactly do you think ideals would feature amongst those 4 pillars?

 

Tricky huh. I guess you could argue that all 4 must cohesively and consistently communicate a brand's ideals, but it’s still pretty, well, you know, clinical maybe, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s because ideals would be better accounted for in the 5th P - People. The one they don’t teach you in business school. However, without people there is no business because every business is about relationships with people. People connecting with one another for some shared reason. Possibly, and more commonly now, as my friend describes, over shared ideals. If this is the way people are communicating and connecting with one another, then how can business be separate, different, play with another set of rules, when business IS people?

 

When you think of it like that, ideals become really important. Not just to have brand ideals, that is, for your business to be on a mission to bring higher order benefits, beliefs and values to the world, but to be able to communicate those ideals in a way that people that understand and connect with. We accept that the best performing brands in the world have strong brand ideals, a bigger purpose or mission, but part of their mission is also to meaningfully communicate those ideals in everything they do. The more consistent they are in delivering that message, the stronger the message is and the greater the connection.

 

The 4 P’s is, or was, all about mass marketing, but it’s different now. Mass marketing was about things and stuff and volume and the masses, but now we’re more about connection marketing. It’s about how we feel, how we connect and how we tell and identify with a story. Brand ideals are no longer a ‘touchy-feely’ option and neither is the crafting of a solid brand story and brilliant strategy to communicate that story.  Brand story is the key to communicating ideals in a way that reflects what people are already genuinely feeling and caring about. It’s more than product, price, placement and promotion - it’s about people, our need to connect and have our values reflected back to us. 

Disclaimer and note: For the picky ones amongst you, me being one myself, please note that I realise the image more accurately represents brand attributes than ideals, but hey, I was pushed for time and I think you'll get my gist :-) Forgive?

Photo credit: Image by johnhain via pixabay

7 reasons why your existing customers are your number one marketing priority

Your existing customers are gold. They’ve already voted to spend their time and money with you, or on your product or service, and this is no small thing. No matter how wonderful you think you are, no matter how great your product or service is, or whether it’s without a doubt the best there is, your customers usually have many, many other options. Options not just in terms of your competition, but in terms of not purchasing that product or service at all. In a world of endless products, noise, promotion and global markets, the fact they chose your thing is rather something, and no matter how big or small you are, gone are the days when you could get away with thinking that providing your customers with what they paid for was all you owed them.

 

Sure, there are product and service categories, indeed whole industries that are characterised by highly transactional, commodity-type markets where on face value you could be forgiven for thinking deep customer loyalty, engagement and community are not necessary. But I would argue it’s just as important. Ok so maybe we’re not talking about group hugs and exclusive membership programmes for some sectors, but solid, reliable customer service goes a long, long way, especially when you’re trying to differentiate somewhat generic products in a price-sensitive market. The loyalty you foster in your existing customers might just be the thing that sets you apart and affords your brand the longevity your competition lacks.

 

Here are 7 reasons that your existing customers should be your number 1 marketing priority;

 

1. Because your existing customers hold the key to getting more like them. The way they think, the reason they choose your brand, the problem your brand solves for them, or the desire it satisfies, is all stuff you need to know and your existing customers are THE people to tell you. Understanding your existing customers even better than they understand themselves is the way you find more customers like them. Gold.

 

2. Because your customers can tell you what else they want or what you could be doing better, how to make them happier, what additional products or services they’d love you to create, you have an enormous opportunity to respond to exactly what they ask for. Don’t follow the market. Responding directly to your own customers is how you become a market leader … but you need customers to do that.

 

3. Because your customers actually want to engage. Meaningful engagement leads to trust and loyalty, which is not only very hard for your competitors to compete with, but because people want their choices to reflect their values, it turns out they’re ever so willing to be loyal and trusting in exchange for that. It’s a basic human need.

 

4. Because through that dialogue and engagement and making your customers feel like they’re really cared about, they get to know the personality and the meaning behind the brand and that takes you from being known about to being loved. Again, gold.

 

5. Because your existing customers are the ones who are going to tell their friends. Treat them like royalty and they’ll do your marketing for you in the most powerful, trusted and resonating way possible. Remember word-of-mouth? Well, nothing’s changed - it’s still the holy grail. When your customers do your marketing for you, they’ve gone beyond customers and have become advocates. Gold with diamonds.

 

6. Because your existing customers are not only your customers today, but by the way you make them feel, they’re highly likely to also be your customers well into the future where every contact they have with your brand continues to nourish a legitimate relationship. Gold.

 

7. Because it’s your existing customers, that through trust, loyalty and sharing, become your community, your tribe, and that in itself is a magnetic force for attracting new customers, followers and advocates.

 

The way I see it, your existing customers are without a doubt your number one marketing priority and that’s because at the heart of each of the 7 points above, are basic human needs that always come before and underlie any business plan, strategy or transaction. Business is about human relationships and it’s only through nurturing the existing relationships that we can attract more of the same. 

 

Don’t ignore the people who’ve already given you their time and money while you scout the masses for more traffic, more conversions, more customers, more sales. Start with the gold you’ve already got because in doing so you increase the longterm value of your customers and expand the intrinsic value of your brand. This inside-out approach is the bedrock of any good marketing strategy and massively contributes to your results and growth into the future being much, much more reliable, not to mention more meaningful. 

Photo credit: "First customers" by Stavos via Flickr

 

Consistency matters

Happy employees make a difference to the customer experience. We hear it all the time and I’m constantly writing about the importance of starting inside with what’s important, crafting that into a meaningful brand story and telling it in every way possible, including through your staff and how much they buy into and feel they represent that story. It’s important because people connect with emotion, and it has to be real. People care less about stuff and more about how they feel. Much, much more.

 

I know that it’s for this reason that it’s next to impossible to stand out and make a difference with tactics designed to interrupt people and strategy designed to get attention when it’s not based on something that comes from the heart. Getting noticed is pretty useless anyway unless people actually believe what you’re saying. Creating messages that actually mean something to people is important because our number one goal is to connect and engage. Because well, that’s what people do. That’s how we are and have always been. 

 

But your ‘messages’ aren't just the things you write; your copy, your slogans, your catch-phrases, your advertising. Your message is in everything. EVERYTHING. Every contact your customer has with you or your business and your brand, sends a message. If you want to be believed, then that message needs to be consistent. That is, you need to tell the same story in everything you do.

 

My inspiration for thinking about consistency of story and brand message came from a recent experience with a plumbing supplier. I’ve been renovating my bathrooms and walking that line between creating a thing of beauty and not blowing the budget … too much :) I’d finally found a mixer that I actually liked and which was in my budget because it had been heavily discounted as a discontinued item. The matching bath spout however was in Palmerston, NT and was one of only two left in the country. This was no problem though because the staff were very diligent in organising it to be sent to Perth, and even when it took a wrong turn and ended up in Adelaide, they kept me posted and assured me they’d get it to me. And they did.

 

When I went into the store to pick it up, not only did the lady who was looking after me do a brilliant job of making me feel looked after on top of everything she’d already done, but about 3 other employees at varying times during my visit, commented jovially about this bath spout, one of the last of its kind, doing a tour of Australia before it ended up here. They were happy I’d got it because they knew how important it was to me and do you know how that made me feel? It made me feel really happy because I felt like they really cared.

 

As I left the store, amidst wishes of “Enjoy!” and “See you next time”, I noticed the company’s brand message on the wall. It said, “Bathroom Happiness”. And I thought to myself, damn right. I am happy. I love the bath spout, but I loved the way I was treated more … and I believe them. I believe them when they say they create bathroom happiness because that’s what I felt. It wasn’t the bath spout, or the brand message, it was the connection those employees created with me that made me believe their story. They were consistent.

 

Consistently telling your brand story in everything you do is what fosters trust and loyalty, over time. Authentically making real connections is what makes people feel what you want them to believe. Otherwise, it’s just words. 

Photo credit: "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair" by downing.amanda via Flickr